Silicon Insider: Meet the MacIntel

And, as I've noted before, Apple is the most totalitarian of Silicon Valley companies: It's secretive to the point of crushing free speech, viciously closed in an open-systems world, and obsessed with a personality cult surrounding its founder/CEO. And as with all such regimes, true believers grow adept at switching their most deeply held beliefs at the command of the party chairman. Thus, a decade ago, the rabid hatred that Macolytes felt toward their Satan, Bill Gates, evaporated in an instant when he appeared on-screen at an event behind a beaming Chairman Steve. Compared to that, the jump from Bad Intel to Good Intel was the matter of a moment, and without a second thought.

A Very Quick Turnaround

What is curious about this week's announcement is just how quickly Apple implanted Intel chips into a new product family. It seems almost superhuman -- and thus a little suspect. I am reminded of the last time Apple seemed to accomplish something beyond the laws of human endeavor. That was the apparently apocryphal creation of Apple's original Lisa/Macintosh windows-type operating system. As the myth goes, Steve Jobs walked into Xerox PARC, saw this amazing new kind of operating software on some prototype personal computers, and had an epiphany. Being the endearing Pirate of Silicon Valley he was, Jobs decided to "borrow" the idea. He went back to Apple and ordered his team to get to work on it.

Literally weeks later, the team handed back to Jobs the legendary Apple OS. It was a superhuman achievement, accomplished by code-writing geniuses inspired by a charismatic leader.

Unfortunately, the story is likely false. As one of those team members, Jef Raskin, explained to me years later, it was he who had been visiting at Xerox PARC and spotted the new operating system design. He, in turn, brought in the rest of the team to take a look -- and, needless to say, they were stunned and convinced that it belonged on the new Apple computer. The problem, they all agreed, was Jobs, who didn't like anything he hadn't discovered himself.

So, the alternative story goes, team members conspired to have Jobs visit Xerox PARC, "discover" the new Operating System, and then order them to duplicate it. Needless to say, they were already hard at work writing the code so when Jobs fell for their scam, they merely had to touch up a few details and deliver the final product. Even after the truth came out, the myth continued to hold sway. Tellingly, it is far better for Apple to portray (and Macolytes to believe in) Steve Jobs as a clever thief, a Robin Hood of the Digital Age, than as the dupe of his subordinates.

Thus, the timing of this announcement makes me suspect that there is more to the story than a bunch of overworked designers spending weekends and holidays laboring to cut the design cycle of the new MacIntels in half. Someday we'll know the real story, probably about some secret skunk works at Apple or Intel that spent the last two years jump-starting the process.

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